California Adoption Assistance Program

Abstract

This case uses California's Adoption Assistance program, which subsidized the adoptive families of "hard to place" children, to examine accountability in social service and intergovernmental grant programs, plus the policy options that were available to the state. The case shows the perspective of program managers who favored the program because it was cheaper than foster care, and because adoption was generally preferred over foster care. At the same time, the program was criticized because of inadequate state guidelines to the counties to negotiate subsidy levels with the adoptive parents. This resulted in subsidy level discrepancies across counties and abuses of the system by adoptive parents.

Asking students to define the problems that exist in the Adoption Assistance program usually evokes a long list of flaws. Against the backdrop of these problems, issues of accountability at the worker level, the county level, and the federal level stand out. Students can discuss different angles about these accountability issues; especially what value should be placed on accountability systems versus other program objectives that can be addressed by the program guidelines. In closing, classroom discussion can turn to more innovative systems of measurement that foster the program purposes and are not overly burdensome on the program staff.

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